Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pridemore's Courageous Move

Owen reports that Don Pridemore is introducing a bill that would force third-party groups to disclose their financial backers. I haven't read the proposal and let's assume ad arguendam that the bill is straightforward--that is, that if NRA, OWN, CRG (etc.) run ads or contribute sums (let's say worth more than $10K/cycle in a Statewide election, smaller numbers for a County, Muni, etc.) for or against a politician, party, or referendum, that those groups must disclose the names of their contributors.

Good. (I have also advocated that the names of the Officers and Directors of such organizations be made public, by the way.)

Owen argues that this is a restraint of the First Amendment:

I am also a firm believer that free speech also means the right to anonymous speech

Maybe. But anonymous speech also allows sewage to seep into the discourse.

There's a consideration which Owen did not mention. That is, that disclosure will eventually force organizations to act responsibly in their advertising and campaigning. I think that it will happen sooner rather than later, too.

Here's why:

When one knows that their John Hancock will appear on a publicly-disclosed database, one thinks very carefully about the leadership, methods, and characteristics of the donee.

"Will they represent my cause well?" "Will the leadership and their methods dishonor me or the cause?" "Can I defend the position(s) they espouse?"

If one cannot answer those questions positively, one may choose not to donate, OR one can start up another advocacy group which DOES provide a satisfactory set of answers.

People such as Chuck Chvala, Jim Doyle, and Tommy Thompson, (and their henchmen) who strong-armed or log-rolled, (of course "legally") or ran ads which were deceptive or outright false, will eventually be pariahs, or at least not "admired or respected" for their actions. They will fade away, leaving only their odor. What remains, by and large, will be advocacy-leaders and politicians who are responsible and ethical.

No, I am not Pollyanna. This is not going to occur overnight, nor will Original Sin be erased.

I concede that there will always be problems--and I make a critical assumption.

That assumption is that most people are working towards the common good. While I may disagree with Capper, Jay, (and others) about the ways and means of attaining that good, or even whether it is a "good" or not, it is wrong to assume that they are simply blackguards from the git-go.

On the other hand, if they support a truly rotten organization or candidate, then it's licit to question their motives.

And when their name (or my name) is potentially on the dotted line, I suspect that the rotten organizations will wither and fade.


3rd Way said...

Well said. I agree with you.

Anonymous said...

Stifling the free speech rights of others is not courageous.

At what point do you differentiate between an anonymous blog with a lot of traffic and a piece of literature distributed through the mail that may or may not be read?

Where do you draw the line when demanding full disclosure of the 'people behind the measure.'

In 1958 the State of Alabama demanded the membership list of the NAACP in an attempt to intimidate their donors into silence, or to dry up their funding. The US Supreme Court ruled against such suppression of rights.

If you don't like the tone of certain candidates or groups, do not support them or their causes.

This nation may never had been founded without the widespread distribution of anonymous complaints against the crown.

Free speech is among the fundamental rights enjoyed by Americans. Attempts to deny such rights should be vigorously opposed, regardless of whether Democrats or Republican propose the suppression.

Dad29 said...

Brian, you say that requiring disclosure of contributors is "stifling free speech rights."

We disagree. You can still speak as much as you like.

And "blogs" have nothing to do with this--except that YOU brought them in.


You got the point, however: if one doesn't like a particular organization, don't contribute.

That, Brian, IS the solution.

Anonymous said...

Why don't blogs have anything to do with this?

Is it that big of a stretch to regulate speech over the Internet, if you're going to regulate speech over the airwaves and in the mailboxes?

Dad29 said...

Well, yah, Brian.

And maryjane leads directly to heroin, too.

Let's deal with what IS on the table rather than what coulda/shoulda/woulda been.

By the way, revolutions are a little different from legislative races.

When you're advocating armed sedition, anonymity is more....ah....precious...than when you're merely pushing Joe Blow for office.

So I get anonymity for Revolutions.

But not for SCOWI races.

Anonymous said...

Freedom means stop relying on the govt for the solution to "problems". Stop the bleeding, start the breathing first...then worry about this sillyness...
Those in the know will know, those not, will not even if you spell it out for them anyway.